Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sodom and Gomorrah: A Prefigure and Type

by Hiram R. Diaz III
…if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction,
making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…
2nd Peter 2:6
Introductory Remarks
In addition to placing a great stress on Peter’s use of the word katastrophē (καταστροφή), which is translated by the ESV as extinction, annihilationists also give special emphasis to Peter’s assertion that this is “what is going to happen to the ungodly.” By assuming that the word example (Gr. ὑπόδειγμα, transl. hypodeigma) implies a relationship of qualitative identity, annihilationists read the text as though it were stating that extinction is what is going to happen to the wicked. However,  as the word hypodeigma is consistently used throughout the New Testament to signify a broad similarity between two or more events/experiences, not a relationship of qualitative identity, the annihilationist’s interpretation of this text is untenable.
As Robert L. Brawley’s notes, “against a Jewish background hypodeigma may be rendered ‘revelatory pattern.’”[1] In light of this, then, Peter is stating that what will happen to the wicked is that they will be severely judged, as were Sodom and Gomorrah. What he is not stating is that the wicked will be rendered “extinct” just as Sodom and Gomorrah were rendered “extinct.”
In what follows, a brief examination of the annihilationist use of 2nd Peter 2:6 will be given, followed by an examination of how the word hypodeigma is used in the NT. Some consideration will be given to the parallel word δεῖγμα (deigma) used in Jude 7. It will be shown that the normal use of hypodeigma does not support the annihilationist interpretation of 2nd Peter 2:6 and Jude 7.
IHypodeigma: A Small-Scale, Exact Representation?
Annihilationists often appeal to 2nd Peter 2:6 in defense of their position that the wicked will be destroyed unto extinction.[2] In their interpretation of the text, the word example (Gr. ὑπόδειγμα, transl. hypodeigma) is taken to mean something along the lines of an exact demonstration on a smaller scale. Thus, Glenn Peoples remarks:
How did Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example to the world? By undergoing, as the AV puts it “the vengeance of eternal fire.” The Greek word for “example” here literally refers to a sample of something. If you want to know what eternal fire is like – just look at what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.
But what did happen to Sodom and Gomorrah? It's recorded in Genesis 19:24-28 [...]
If that's what eternal fire did to Sodom and Gomorrah, then there's no basis for just assuming that when the phrase appears in the Gospels it must refer to a fire that torments people forever.[3]
Similarly, Peter Grice states:
Reading 2 Peter 2:6 and Jude & in light of each other…yields the truth that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example, by being burned to ashes, of “those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire,” which is “what is going to happen to the ungodly.”[4] 
Chris Date holds the same interpretation of this passage, asserting:
2 Peter 2:6…tells that [sic.] Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ashes. And Jude says the destruction of the cities by fire serves as an example of what awaits the wicked, using the Greek word deigma which refers to a specimen of something, not a prefigure or type.[5]
For annihilationists, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a small-scale exact representation of what will occur at the eschaton. Hence, Peoples emphatically states:
2 Peter 2:6 tells us of God that “by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.” I cannot conceive of a way to state it more clearly than this. The absolute annihilation that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah serves as “an example of what is coming to the ungodly.”[6] 
In critiquing “the modern version of the eternal torment doctrine,” Joseph Dear urges his readers to “consider Sodom and Gomorrah, and their use as a model for God’s judgment in passages like 2 Peter 2.6 and Jude 7.”[7] He then states that these passages are “a strong indication that hell is a place of annihilation (especially 2 Peter 2:6, since it tells us that God specifically made an example out of them by reducing them to ashes).”[8] Dear emphasizes this point again in footnote 15 of the same article, stating:
The annihilationist is still in much a better position [than the “Traditionalist”], given the Old Testament’s emphasis on Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction…as well as the specific text of 2 Peter 2:6 which says that God made them an example specifically by incinerating them[9]
The annihilationlist interpretation of 2nd Peter 2:6, as is observable in the above citations, largely rests upon interpreting hypodeigma as signifying a small-scale exact representation.
However, Derek Kidner, in contradiction to the annihilationists quoted above, notes that hypodeigma signifies “a ‘model’, almost in the sense in which scientists sometimes use the term, to mean not an exact representation but a means of visualising a concept.”[10] Hypodeigma’s first appearance is in John 13:15, where Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet is to be an example for the disciples to follow. Jesus says:
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
The footwashing Christ performs is an instance of humble service toward one’s brother. The point is not that the disciples should literally do as Christ has done to them, but that the disciples should look at Christ’s act of washing their feet and serve one another with a humility that is comparable to what they have just observed. As John Gill explains:
Our Lord’s meaning is, that as he had, by this action, given them an example of humility, condescension, and love; so they should exercise these graces, and perform such kind offices to one another, and to all their fellow Christians.[11]
Some commentators, in fact, have noted that Christ’s use of the word hypodeigma indicates that the footwashing/humble service is actually a sign/model/pattern of a greater act of cleansing through humble service, viz. the crucifixion of the Son of God for sinners. R. Alan Culpepper traces hypodeigma’s use in the Gospel of John to its use in the LXX. There it signifies not merely an example in general, but the exemplary death of a believer.[12] Culpepper, consequently, states that
the reader cannot literally allow the Lord to wash his or her feet, but the reader can understand and believe that Jesus’ death revealed the love of God for his own in the world eis telos (“completely,” “finally”) and that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. The footwashing scene, therefore, functions metaphorically and proleptically in relation to Jesus’ death. It clarifies in advance the meaning of Jesus’ death (so the reader will be better able understand its significance when it is narrated) and be further disposed to respond with belief.[13]
Similarly, David Wenham identifies Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet as “an acted parable of his death.”[14] Wenham continues:
On the cross Jesus was to demonstrate the extent of his love by ‘laying aside his garment’ (literally and metaphorically) and undergoing the greatest humiliation possible. In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus explains that his death is lowly service for others, that his purpose in dying is to wash them (from their sins, of course)[15]
The “example” of humble service and self-sacrifice, according to these authors, encompasses even the cross itself. What is not intended by Christ is that his activity of footwashing be repeated identically by the disciples, but that his humble service toward others and self-sacrifice be followed throughout their lives.
This understanding of hypodeigma is also borne out by its second occurrence in Heb 4:11, where it signifies a particular instance of unbelief and hardening of one’s heart. The author writes:
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.[16]
The “same sort” of disobedience is also translatable as “example,”[17] or “pattern,”[18] indicating again that what the writer intends to communicate is much broader than a small-scale exact representation. The sort of unbelief exhibited in the wilderness wanderers is not identical to the sort of unbelief warned of in the book of Hebrews. What is identical in both instances of unbelief, rather, is simply unbelief in God’s Word.
Likewise in the third instance of hypodeigma (Heb 8:5), God tells Moses to “see that [he] make[s] everything according to the pattern [hypodeigma] that was shown [to him] on the mountain.” The pattern is the tabernacle itself, the type of what is contained in heaven, as Heb 9:23 makes clear:
Thus it was necessary for the copies [hypodeigma] of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
The pattern is the type of the heavenly realities which are qualitatively dissimilar. David E. Garland explains, that the “author’s word hypodeigma (GK 5682; ‘preliminary sketch’ rather than ‘copy’; see note) relates this earthly tabernacle not so much back to the original blueprint as forward to the true heavenly sanctuary it inadequately represents.”[19]
In the fourth instance of hypodeigma, James 5:10 reads:
As an example [hypodeigma] of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Dan G. McCartney correctly notes that James’ “concern is with the pattern of faith in the face of adversity and pressures toward unbelief, a pattern of faith set by those whom we now consider ‘blessed.’”[20] The suffering endured patiently by the prophets, as well as Job who is mentioned in the next verse it should be noted, is not identical to the suffering James is admonishing his readers to endure with patience. The example/pattern (hypodeigma), in other words, is not a small-scale exact representation; it is, rather, an instance of a kind of behavior. Job’s suffering and the suffering of the prophets (e.g. Daniel who suffered religious persecution from his contemporaries), despite the drastic differences between them, are said to serve as an example (hypodeigma), thus demonstrating the word signifies a broad similarity, a relationship of analogy and not one of identity.
II. Deigma
The same must be said of δεῖγμα (deigma) which is found in the parallel passage in Jude 7. The word is a hapax legomenon and must, therefore, be understood in light of the much clearer 2nd Peter 2:6. Given that Peter’s use of hypodeigma does not signify a small-scale exact representation but a broadly similar pattern/example/type, and given that Jude’s use of deigma is its only occurrence in the Scriptures and must, therefore, be interpreted in light of its clearer parallel, it cannot be the case that deigma “refers to a specimen of something, [and] not a prefigure or type.[21] Moreover, given Peter’s use of the word hypodeigma in his parallel statement, if Jude’s use of deigma does not mean a prefigurement or type then the Scriptures are self-contradictory. But the Scriptures are not self-contradictory. Therefore, the word deigma does mean prefigurement or type.[22]
III. The Underlying Emphasis
In contradiction to the annihliationist interpretation of 2nd Peter 2:6, the hypodeigma of Sodom and Gomorrah is not a small-scale exact representation of the eschatological fate of the wicked. Rather, Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a type/demonstration or even preliminary sketch of the final end of the wicked. There is not a relationship of qualitative identity between the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah and the fate of the wicked; the relationship is typological. However, there is another sense in which Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example. Gene L. Green notes that the example in 2nd Peter 2:6, and by implication Jude 7, is a moral example. The focus of Peter’s statement, in other words, is not on the type of punishment received by the wicked but on the fact that they were judged by God. Grene:
Peter’s concern…is primarily with the typological nature of that dreadful event, which God has made into “an example to the ungodly” […] The use of examples in moral instruction was much more common in the ancient Mediterranean world than in contemporary Western culture, whether those examples were positive and to be followed …or negative and therefore to be avoided…The “example” was understood as a “specimen” or “sample,” and in Peter’s view the ancient destruction thus is a sample of the type of doom the ungodly will meet…. We might say that the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah was just a sample of things to come.[23]
Peter, in other words, “shows that despite the heretics’ claim to the contrary, God did certainly judge humanity in the past (2:4–10a). And as God did in the past, so God will do in the future.”[24] E. Michael Green similarly remarks that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
in order to bring home to succeeding generations that unrighteousness will end in ruin. False teaching and false behaviour ultimately always produce suffering and disaster, be it in Lot’s day, in Peter’s, or in our own. This is Jude’s point when he says that the punishment of these cities has an eternal quality (Jude 7).[25]

Concluding Remarks
Although 2nd Peter 2:6 is often cited as a proof-text in favor of the doctrine of annihilationism, the text does not teach the doctrine. The annihilationist assumption that hypodeigma signifies a small-scale exact representation is not supportable from the text of Scripture, as hypodeigma always signifies a broadly similar relationship between the example/s and the thing exemplified. Christ’s washing his disciples’ feet is an example (hypodeigma), as are the tabernacle and its accoutrements, and even the prophets mentioned in James 5:10 - and the example/s and things exemplified are not qualitatively identical to one another.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example (hypodeigma) of what will happen to the ungodly for two reasons. Firstly, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a type of the eternal destruction facing the wicked. Secondly, despite that Sodom and Gomorrah’s experience of destruction is not qualitatively identical to the destruction facing the wicked in the age to come, it nonetheless serves the purpose of illustrating that God’s judgment against the wicked is not an idle threat (which is the overarching point Peter is making[26]). Just as God said he would judge the wicked men of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he did, so too he will judge the wicked in Peter’s day, and in our own.
2nd Peter 2:6 and Jude 7 do not teach that the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is a small-scale exact representation of the eschatological fate of the wicked. Rather, they teach that the wicked will face a similar, though not identical, judgment in the age to come. 

They will not escape the eternal wrath of God.

[1] “John” in The New Testament and Ethics: A Book-by-Book Survey ed. Joel B. Green (Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013), Ebook.
[2]Representative of this view, Rethinking Hell contributors, rebutting the traditionalist use of Matthew 18:8 as a proof-text in defense of the orthodox doctrine of Hell, explain:
...the phrase eternal fire is used is in Jude 7, where Jude writes that Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Jude explicitly states that the cities suffered the punishment of eternal fire, as many theologians admit. No wonder the parallel in 2 Peter 2:6 refers to their having been reduced to ashes.
The punishment of eternal fire is therefore not suffering for eternity as everlasting fuel for its flames. Rather, it is the punishment of being utterly destroyed, completely burned up, reduced to nothing but lifeless corpses and ashes by a fire that is eternal insofar as it cannot be quenched—no mere earthly fire but an eternal fire from God.
“Traditionalist Proof-texts Against Conditionalism,” Rethinking Hell, accessed October 30, 2016, (emphasis added)
[3]Why I am An Annihilationist,” Right Reason, accessed October 30, 2016,, 21. (emphasis added)
[4] A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge, Ed. Christopher M. Date and Ron Highfield (Oregon:Wipf and Stock, 2015)137.
[5] “Clearly Wrong: A Response to T. Kurt Jaros,” Rethinking Hell, accessed October 30, 2016, (emphasis added) [nb. This denial of typology is what I have elsewhere identified as the “mention-of-expansion” rule. I have dealt with this unbiblical hermeneutical rule in my article “The Necessity of Typological Exegesis: Refuting the Annihilationist ‘Mention-of-Expansion’ Rule,” Biblical Trinitarian, accessed November 04, 2016,]
[6] Why, Peoples, 11.
[7] “Why the Modern Version of the Eternal Torment Doctrine Falls Short,” Rethinking Hell, accessed October 30, 2016,
[8] ibid. (emphasis added)
[9] Ibid. (emphasis added)
[10] “Preaching from the Old Testament,” in Evangel 8:4 (1990), 12.
[11] John Gill’s Commentary on the Entire Bible, John.
[12] “The Johannine Hypodeigma: A Reading of John 13” in Semeia 53 (1991)142-143,
[13] The Johannine Hypodeigma, Culpepper, 139-140.
[14] “How Jesus Understood the Last Supper: a Parable in Action” in Themelios 20.2 (January 1995), 15.
[15] ibid.
[16] ESV. (emphasis added)
[17] ASV, CEB, KJV, 1599 Geneva Bible, ISV, NIV, NASB, NKJV.
[19] Hebrews-Revelation, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Michigan: Zondervan, 2006), Ebook. (emphasis added).
[20] James (Michigan: Baker, 2009), 242-243.
[21] Clearly Wrong, Date, Rethinking Hell, accessed November 11, 2016, (emphasis added)
[22] In addition to interpreting the more clear assertion of 2nd Peter 2:6 in light of the less clear assertion in Jude 7 (less clear because deigma is a hapax legomenon), some annihilationists have attempted to sought to interpret deigma according to its historical use outside of the text of Scripture. Such a meaning is viable, however, only if there are no parallel uses of the word within the Scriptures. Peter’s use of hypodeigma provides us with the proper understanding of how we are to translate and interpret deigma.
[23] Jude and 2 Peter, eds. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Michigan: Baker, 2008), 73.
[24] Jude, Green, 168.
[25] 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, ed. Leon Morris (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009), Ebook.
[26] cf. 2nd Pet 2:3b.